Sri Lanka prisoners’ rights group seeks UN help to stop custodial deaths

A prominent prisoners’ rights organization in Sri Lanka has requested the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take immediate action to put an end to deaths caused by police torture.

The said organization says that it will take steps to lodge a complaint with the United Nations (UN) as well.

In a letter addressed to IGP C.D. Wickramaratne, Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) emphasized that the IGP has a responsibility to ensure the safety of arrestees without violating their human rights while they remain in the custody of the police, irrespective of their social status or alleged links to any criminal activity.

“That right has been guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights section of the Constitution, various other laws and as well as Supreme Court verdicts,” the CPRP said.

In his complaint, CPRP Chairman Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera had informed the IGP that even though there is a long history of custodial deaths, it has now become a trend.

As CPRP has pointed out, following the extrajudicial killings of Tharaka Dharmakeerthi Wijesekara and Dineth Melan Mambula, after they were taken to find hidden weapons, allegations have been levelled against the Police with regard to the deaths of three more persons within a period of one month.

1. Allegations were levelled against the Weligama Police regarding the death of D. Sunil Indrajith, a 49-year-old father of three (7 May 2021)

2. Allegations were levelled against the Batticaloa Police regarding the death of Chandran Chandran Vidushan, a 22-year-old man (3 June 2021)

3. Allegations were levelled against Panadura (North) Police regarding the death of Mohammed Ali Khan, a 48-year-old father of two (6 June 2021)

senaka 12Taking every measure in order to prevent such incidents is the duty of the IGP as the head of Sri Lanka Police, said Attorney-at-Law Perera, reminding him of the consequences of the public losing the trust in Police.

“If the public lose the trust they have in the Police any further, it would be impossible to stop the people from attempting to resolve their issues themselves.”

I do not see any action being taken under criminal law against the suspect Police officers, in addition to mere suspension, Perera stressed, adding that he was of the opinion that such behaviour encourages torture by the police itself.

“As a responsible organization working for the rights of those arrested by the Police, we request that all necessary measures be taken to put an end to this wave of Police torture, and that action be taken against the responsible Police officers under the criminal law,” the letter further read.

Perera had also told the media that a copy of the complaint will be sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Chairman Dr Jagath Balasooriya, in a letter addressed to the IGP, recently said that ensuring the safety of suspects who are in Police custody is the duty of the Police Department, and that it has been emphasized by the orders issued by the Police Department as well as Supreme Court verdicts.(ELDR)

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